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Roman Catholicism

September 28, 2015

Many are saying that there is no significant difference between Roman Catholicism and what we believe as Evangelicals in regard to salvation. Would you give me a specific critique of the Roman Catholic view of salvation? 

I must begin with this premise and then explain why I have concluded my premise. The Roman Catholic view of salvation is a false view and is another gospel, which is no gospel at all (Gal. 1:8-9). Specifically the Roman Catholic view of salvation is based on merit. In other words, it is a works based system of salvation. The sacramental system and the adherence to the Church’s dogma are proposed as the means of grace. The RCC also proposes that the Papacy is the Vicar of Christ and the head of the church. I will examine specifically the sacraments included in this view and provide some helpful distinctions for you.

The RCC, in the present day supposes that all other faiths can be saved if they live up to the light that is revealed in them. This is a direct assault on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father (John 14:6). The Scripture is clear that man does not possess light in himself that would cause him to repent of his sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation (Romans 3:10-18). The sinner must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved (Romans 10:14-17). No one is saved by works done in the flesh (Ephesians 2:8-9; Psalm 51:10). Sinners are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is His work that is credited to the sinners account, whereas the sins of the elect are credited to Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus Christ alone can atone for sinners and has done so before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). Whoever does not love the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His gospel is accursed (1 Cor. 16:22).

The RCC believes wrongly concerning the definition of grace. Specifically, the RCC believes that grace can be resisted, that it assists free human responses, and that Mary, the mother of Jesus, may supply it. Biblical grace is given by God alone through Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), has with it the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-18), is Christ Jesus, is wed to truth (John 1:17), and causes the believer to obey the commandments of God and renounce worldliness and ungodliness (Titus 2:11-15). Grace is a gift of God to undeserving sinners and is born of His own sovereign pleasure. Contrary to the RCC, if grace were merited or given through anyone but God, it would be insufficient to save sinners and inadequate to spare sinners from the wrath to come.

Roman Catholicism also believes that, through the sacramental system and man’s inherent goodness, man cooperates with God in order to earn salvation. In contrast, salvation is a work of God alone, given to men. Even the faith that man possesses to believe is not born from his own will. God gives sinners the faith and repentance to believe. Because man cooperates with God in his salvation, in the RCC system, it is through the sacraments of baptism, penance, and confirmation that man is saved.

The Protestant view of baptism proposes that it is a symbol of the believer’s salvation and identification with Jesus Christ. Baptism, in Protestantism, is an outward testimony of inward salvation. It does not merit salvation (1 Peter 3:21). The proper view of baptism supposes that man is a believer because of cleansing with water. However, man’s problem is not that he is outwardly defiled (Mark 7:20). Man cannot do anything to merit his own salvation because he is dead in his sins (Col. 1:13).

Man does not receive confirmation by the church, because the church possesses delegated authority. Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the church (Col. 1:18) and members of the church are His body. All believers are priests and have equal access to Him (1 Peter 2;5). Mary is the mother of Jesus in his humanity, but she is not the mother of God. Jesus Christ addressed her as a mere woman, not a divine woman (John 2:4). Mary’s petitions to Jesus were the same as everyone else in his immediate circle. He did not acquiesce to her, instead she told the disciples to do what He wanted them to do (John 2:5). This does not make her an intercessor, for them, instead she recognized that she did not possess any divine authority over Christ and that He would do as He pleased in His timing.

Although the RCC would be more ecumenical in the present day and would adhere to a more inclusivism ideology, directly after the Protestant Reformation, Roman Catholicism solidified her departure from biblical truth. Her declaration during the counter-reformation at the Council of Trent attacked the biblical grounds of salvation. The RCC pronounced anathemas on all those who adhere to justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). Pronouncing curses on doctrinal truth is to attack the One who bears testimony to the truth (John 18:37).

The RCC believes that man possesses inherent goodness and the means to make himself right with God. This is a false premise (Romans 3:10), because man is alienated from God (Col. 1:21-23). Man does not choose God, instead, God chooses him (Romans 9:16). The sinner’s will is not free. His will is enslaved and captive to sin and Satan (Romans 6:16; 1 John 3:8). Unless he repents, he is an enemy of the cross (Phil. 3:18). Those who glory in the works of their flesh have forsaken the grace of God (1 Cor. 1:29-30).

The RCC also believes that the process of being born again or ‘regeneration’ takes place over the duration of one’s life. However, the Bible teaches that man is born again and made alive to Christ in one instant (Eph. 2:1-10). God declares the sinner not guilty based on the merits of Jesus Christ alone (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:17-21). The sinner is born again before he demonstrates faith in Christ, because he must be made alive before he can respond (Romans 8:28-30). Left to his own devices, the sinner would always choose according to his nature. He is a slave to sin, not a casual participant (John 8:34; Romans 6:18-20). Man suppresses the truth about God in unrighteousness, therefore God’s wrath remains on him (Romans 1:18-19; John 3:36). If man is regenerated over time, then the cross is not powerful to cleanse the sinner in an instant and man is caught between his old and new nature. However, the Bible teaches that the power of the cross is demonstrated in its destruction of the old nature (Romans 6:6; Eph. 4:22; 2 Cor. 5:17). Because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for sinners on the cross, the old nature has passed away in all who confess faith in Him (Romans 6:6).

-Doron Gladden

One Comment
  1. Angela Gladden permalink

    Hi Doron, I prayed for clarity on the Roman Catholic view in lieu of the Pope’s visit and I saw article on Chris’s page and copied and shared with different Christians and their groups. When I printed out I saw your name on bottom. I did not realize you wrote it. Paper was very enlightening and very clear. God bless! Love mom❤


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